January 25, 2013
New York Police Commissioner Kelly has unveiled a proposal to track drug thefts through pill bottles with a GPS unit attached. The tracking GPS “decoy” pill bottles are being developed by Purdue Pharma in cooperation with the NYPD. The company has stated that similar false bottles of the much abused drug OxyContin (brand name for Oxycodone) have been used in pharmacies in other states. The Associated Press reported that police in Maine credited such a tracking bottle with a successful arrest in a pharmacy theft in 2010.
Commissioner Kelly announced this newest use of technology by the NYPD at the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Conference in California this past Tuesday. As with any project this one has a name and Kelly stated that it is part of “Operation Safety Cap” which will also include other initiatives to decrease thefts from pharmacies in New York City. One of the other initiatives proposed is building a database of approximately 6,000 licensed pharmacists in New York which they hope to complete in March. With this information, officers can visit the pharmacies, discuss security issues with the proprietors and make recommendations.
The pill tracker bottles will be identical to regular bottles of oxycodone, both in look and feel and will be hard for a thief to distinguish from other bottles that they are taking at the same time. When the bottles are taken off the shelf, the GPS is activated and the NYPD can begin tracking the bottle. There are 1,800 pharmacies in New York that the Commissioner hopes will become involved with the project.
The impetus for this technological attack on pharmacy crime is the fact that there has been an increase in violent crime relating to these types of thefts. There is an incident in which a pharmacist, customers and employees were murdered in the course of one of these robberies. The pharmacy has now become the “place to rob” much like the proverbial liquor store in past times. There is great demand for these painkillers and a successful score can be extremely profitable for these thieves.
There has been some comment that it might have been better to leave this project undercover, but the Commissioner certainly is hoping that the fact of it may be deterrence to violent robbery.